Recent Climate Report Highlights the Need for Conservatives to Act

A recently released report emphasizes the growing threat posed by climate change and the need for immediate action. The National Climate Assessment (NCA), a study conducted annually by the federal government, elaborates on the severe consequences that will result should the United States fail to address rising global temperatures. Inaction, the report claims, will decimate many areas of the agricultural industry, devastate marine ecosystems, and adversely impact human health and quality of life. These consequences and the presence of an indelible human impact on climate change are widely accepted in the scientific community and across much of the political spectrum; however, the rhetoric contained in this report ventures a step further and makes an array of hyperbolic claims.

Most of the buzz surrounding this year’s NCA derives from two of the report’s boldest claims. The NCA asserts that climate change could slash the U.S. GDP by as much as 10 percent over the next 80 years and lead to thousands of deaths annually. These startling claims are echoed in a recent UN climate report that emphasizes the need for massive cuts to fossil fuel emissions – in the tune of 45 percent over the course of the next 12 years.

Both the NCA and UN reports make doomsday predictions and feed into the alarmist narrative that has characterized climate discussions for decades. These claims of impending catastrophe fail to generate solutions; they instead fuel the fire for polarized conversations and allow the environmental left to continue its monopoly over climate change policy. Exaggerated claims like those found in the NCA and UN reports empower the left to justify onerous regulation, and conservatives who question their methods are labeled climate deniers complicit in the planet’s future destruction. This trend is disturbing, as no policy solutions should be based entirely on the views of a monotonous echo chamber.

All of this is not to say that climate change is negligible or not deserving of our attention. One can be supportive of measures to address climate change without believing every prediction in these oftentimes politically motivated reports. This is especially important for conservatives, who are often guilty of disengaging from climate discussions because of the rhetoric they hear. Although alarmism is undoubtedly counterproductive and irritating, it does not provide an excuse for conservatives to withdraw from these debates.

When conservatives refuse to offer their own climate solutions, the environmental left maintains complete control over the narrative. This is precisely how disastrous initiatives like the so-called “Green New Deal” gain traction. Backed by a coalition of young and radical progressive Democrats, the Green New Deal would create a select committee on climate change and aim to make the United States entirely dependent on renewable energy within the next ten years. This program is laughably hypocritical and unrealistic. The environmental left loves to emphasize the immense economic costs of climate change, yet they ignore the fact that transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy in just ten years would send energy costs through the roof and eliminate thousands of jobs. While relying entirely on clean energy is an admirable goal, it is simply not feasible in the near future given the small share that renewables comprise in the U.S. energy mix.     

While critiquing the left’s big government proposals provides a solid starting point, it is not sufficient for conservatives eager to address climate change and other environmental issues. Many conservatives make the mistake of brushing aside leftist proposals and telling themselves that they will never come to fruition. While a number of more moderate Democrats have expressed skepticism regarding the Green New Deal, the current Democratic trajectory may soon create a party where FDR, socialist-friendly ideas are once again mainstream. Absent limited government, free market environmental solutions, disastrous programs like the Green New Deal will prevail by default, thus making it all the more critical that conservatives both critique big government proposals and offer their own innovative ideas.

Now more than ever, it’s imperative that conservatives take action to lead on climate change and environmental issues. This should occupy a higher priority on the right out of moral concern for the planet’s future and out of political concern for the failures that radically liberal policies may instigate. Given that nearly two-thirds of voters support more action to address climate change, conservatives would be wise to offer innovative, limited government solutions that will best address the problems that may loom large in the near future.